Bald Hill in Marin County’s Ross Valley is not part of Bald Hill Open Space Preserve. Since the preserve was formed in 1994, adjacent lands gradually have been added as public open space, but the hill’s summit has remained privately owned.
The protection and preservation of Bald Hill was identified as a high priority by local governments, grassroots environmental groups, and residents since 1976. Now, the naming quirk could be fixed. After decades of attempts to make a public purchase, there is a proposed agreement between the County of Marin and the nonprofit Marin Open Space Trust (MOST) to make Bald Hill proper part of the preserve.
On October 11, Marin County Parks will ask the Marin County Open Space District Board of Directors to authorize a purchase and sale agreement with MOST and other requirements. Parks would use $850,000 from the County Open Space District acquisition set-aside budget for the purchase, a move that would not affect the County’s General Fund.
The land, in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, would increase the preserve’s acreage from 46 to 106 (130%) if the deal is approved.
“I think most Ross Valley residents assumed it was already protected public land,” said Board of Supervisors President Katie Rice, who represents nearby residents in District 2. “In fact, this ingrained part of Ross Valley’s identity has been vulnerable to development this whole time. If this is approved, the acquisition would fulfill a decades-old goal of the community and the County to protect this invaluable landscape and prevent development on its pristine hillsides. And we would be getting the property at a significantly discounted price thanks to the generous support of the donors.”
The privately held Bald Hill parcels, just south of the existing preserve boundary, include the 1,141-foot treeless summit, which provides an iconic backdrop for the towns of Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. The parcels are within the Town of Ross and adjacent to the San Anselmo town limits and Marin Water lands to the west. The Worn Springs and Upper Road West fire roads run through the parcels. If the sale is executed, the two parcels — approximately 60 acres in all — would be added to the existing preserve that features hiking and equestrian recreational opportunities.
Jonathan Braun, MOST’s board member leading the effort to acquire the parcels, said MOST has received strong support from Ross Town Councilmember Elizabeth Robbins, Ross resident Dan Kalafatas, the Tamalpais Conservation Club, and a host of conservation-minded individuals.
“Bald Hill is a beloved place,” Braun said. “This is made possible by a lot of generosity and hard work by community members and MOST, and we’re grateful to reach this point and bring it forward for Open Space District consideration. MOST is thrilled to have the opportunity to protect it.”
The last time Bald Hill Preserve was enlarged was in 2015 when the County bought the 16.2-acre Sky Ranch. That purchase also featured MOST as a liaison between the County and private owners. It connected the preserve to more than 100,000 acres of additional public lands and hundreds of miles of public trails stretching west to Point Reyes and south to the Marin Headlands.